Tag Archives: Strasbourg Cathedral

June 18: Jesus meets a Woman and a Dog

upperroom tomdog

After our pilgrims’ canter through the book of Tobit, ending with Tobias and Sarah and the dog living happily ever after, here is a story about Jesus, a woman and a dog. I like to think, along with the master masons of Strasbourg Cathedral, that Jesus and his followers had a dog with them. Here he is a few months later, excluded from Saint Thomas’s moment of truth after thee resurrection.

Jesus was someone who went across the river, through the desert and over the mountains. And then again: over the mountains, through the desert, and across the river. Jesus walked everywhere, and one day he went across the border and came to Tyre.

A Canaanite woman there began shouting,

Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David: my daughter is grieviously troubled by the devil. Who answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying: Send her away, for she crieth after us: and he answering, said: I was not sent but to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel.

But she came and adored him, saying: Lord, help me. Who answering, said: It is not good to take the bread of the children, and to cast it to the dogs. And she said: Yea, Lord; for the pups also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters.

Then Jesus answering, said to her: O woman, great is thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wilt: and her daughter was cured from that hour.                      Matthew 15:22-27.

REFLECTION

I think Jesus is teasing this woman – we don’t know her name but we can see that she knew about children, she knew about dogs, and she knew about Jesus.

And she will not be ignored!

Jesus does not send her away. He tests her as he teases her; by appealing to her sense of humour, he leads her to express her faith more clearly, running with the metaphor he challenges her with.

Let us ask God for the things we need, and for the things our family and friends need, and for a sense of our own littleness, as we pray:

Our Father.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

February 23. Thomas Traherne XVI: our Saviour’s cross exerciseth all the powers of his soul.

strasbourg.judgement small

Let’s revisit Thomas Traherne, always a challenging read. He accepts the New Testament and revels in its ideas and truths. He interprets the doctrine of the Body of Christ in this passage. ‘Our Saviour’s cross … taketh up his thoughts, and exerciseth all the powers of his soul.’ As it did with the artist of Strasbourg Cathedral, above.

You are His, and you are all; or in all, and with all.

He that is in all, and with all, can never be desolate.

All the joys and all the treasures, all the counsels, and all the perfections; all the angels, and all the saints of God are with him. All the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them are continually in his eye. The patriarchs, prophets, and Apostles are always before Him. The councils and the fathers, the bishops and the doctors minister unto him.

All temples are open before him, the melody of all quires reviveth him, the learning of all universities doth employ him, the riches of all palaces delight him, the joys of Eden ravish him, the revelations of St. John transport him, the creation and the day of Judgment please him, the Hosannas of the church militant and the Hallelujahs, of the Saints Triumphant fill him, the splendour of all coronations entertain him, the joys of Heaven surround him, and our Saviour’s cross, like the Centre of Eternity, is in him; it taketh up his thoughts, and exerciseth all the powers of his soul, with wonder, admiration, joy and thanksgiving.

The Omnipotence of God is his House, and Eternity his habitation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

28 July: The Beating Heart of Strasbourg

STRASBG.CATH.ENGRAVING.jpg

The Cathedral is a heart

The Cathedral is a heart.

The tower is a bud.

Have you counted the steps

that lead to the platform?

Every night they become more and more numerous.

They grow.

The tower turns turns

and turns about itself.

It turns, it grows,

it dances with its saints

and the saints dance with their hearts.
Will it fly away with the angels,

the tower of Strasbourg Cathedral?

Strasbourg Cathedral is a swallow.

The swallows

believe in the angels amid the clouds.

The swallows don’t believe in ladders

to climb in the air.

They let themselves fall into the air

into the air interwoven

with the blue of infinity.

Strasbourg Cathedral is a swallow.

She lets herself fall into the winged sky

into the air of the angels.

 

I don’t claim to know what the sculptor Jean Arp meant by this poem; it is a poem that he let fly away once written. I did see an interview where he spoke about the saints on Strasbourg Cathedral. ‘We cannot surpass the work of the old masters’, he said of the cathedral dominating his home town. I read it as a love song.

Mediæval Cathedrals are well-loved. One expression of this is the continuing schedules of works to preserve these treasures, Canterbury always has scaffolding somewhere about its sides. We were not tempted to launch into the air from the roof platform at Strasbourg, but to have built the place so high was an act of faith by the architects, a duc in alto, putting out into the depths of space.

We should imitate Our Lord at his temptations in not taking irresponsible risks to impress the devil in us or in other people, but we should also trust him to hold us safe as we fly, ever in danger of falling, ever seeking the infinite blue of heaven.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, PLaces, poetry

13 May: The one who was lost.

judas

Father Daniel Weatherley was saying that today was, he thought, the only time that poor Judas is mentioned twice in the Scripture readings, in Acts 1: 15-26 and John 17:11-19.

Judas is described as the one who chose to be lost; we read elsewhere how he hanged himself. Father Daniel described him as refusing Christ’s – God’s – love and so getting into a dark place. Fair comment, but the sculptor of Strasbourg Cathedral doesn’t expect the Lamb of God to be merely fair. Here he is shown, determinedly untying the former apostle, right at Hell’s mouth.

Even before Jesus descended into Hell, this artist has  him rescuing his friend.

Thank God the Church is more merciful to suicides these days; but we still have much to learn about mercy.

MMB

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter

28 October, Shared Table XVII: together around the table.

This post is more explicitly about the Eucharist than some others in this occasional series; but they are all about the Eucharist, which includes every meal shared in love.

I have been reading an article Facing the Lord’s Table by Thomas O’Loughlin1 where he discusses the positions taken up by priest and people in the Catholic Eucharist: either one man on one side of the altar-table and the rest facing across it to him, or in the older tradition, the priest facing the altar but also away from the people.

Neither of these is ideal, he argues. If two of us are eating together, we will usually face each other, the better to communicate; if there are more of us, we will sit around the table. Thus, in the first picture above, you’ll see how we have re-arranged ourselves for the photo, and we returned to our plates a moment later. In the Last Supper from Strasbourg Cathedral, like so many others, artistic licence dictates that those present are facing us – but we Christians share that same table in Strasbourg, in Canterbury, or wherever we may be in the world, so the gathering around the table is symbolically completed by the onlookers’ presence.

Dr O’Loughlin reminds us that at Mass, rather than in front of a carving, we are a community when we gather round a table; that is when we say Grace to bless the food and drink.

Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

My brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together.

1 Corinthians 10:17; 11:33

Dr O’Loughlin also suggests that an accurate translation of the First Eucharistic Prayer would have us standing around the table rather than just standing before God, and that this is borne out by ancient liturgical instructions about how the broken pieces of the loaf were to be set out on the paten for distribution.

He closes with these words: The theological bottom line is this: if the Logos has come to dwell among us (John1:14), then every table of Christians is a place where one could rub up against him at one’s elbow.

Now there’s a thought! Do read and digest the article if you can find the journal.

1In The Furrow, October 2017, p554-560.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

June 22: Shared Table V, A big Miracle.

bread-fish-strasbg

Do I need to add that it was another true story? One of the most spectacular shared meals of all time, that puts into the shade our small miracle recalled in Tuesday’s post – and it happened in the unforgiving Galilean sunshine. 5,000 men, not to mention women and children, all of them fed from  five loaves and two little fish.

John’s account (Chapter 6) tells us that the food was offered by a small boy. So even then, the Lord depended on others to complete his work.

John also tells us that Jesus spoke about himself as real food:

For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me.

Well, they did not get it, those who walked no more with him. But do we get it? Remember  Herbert McCabe:

The doctrine of transubstantiation, as I see it, is that the bread and wine become more radically food and drink.

To the naked eye the Eucharist is nothing like as spectacular as the feeding of the five thousand, at which Jesus floated the idea of his body as food to his followers. But consider how we feel more alive in the company of loved ones, as part of a crowd with a purpose such as cheering on a sports team; breathing the same air, hearing and singing the same chants, sharing conversation. We feel energised.

We can be less than 100% attentive to what is being said and done at Mass, receiving the Sacrament in a daze of fatigue or fret. But our presence, our extended hand, are there not just in the moment, but more radically are on the brink of the eternal moment.

(I doubt the loaves and fish were as big as these carved on Strasbourg Cathedral)

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

October 16: He would have smiled

judas

I remember an Anglican priest shaken by a parishioner’s claim never to have suffered, wondering what life this man had lived. R.S. Thomas was an Anglican priest himself of course, and met such men from time to time, perhaps with a wry shake of the head.

The title of this poem, ‘The Fisherman’, evokes images of Peter the Apostle, embarrassing in his stuttering faith. Instead we meet a man who takes a fish or glass of water ‘as though they owed it to him’. How to evangelise such a one?

I could have told of the living water

That springs pure.

He would have smiled then,

Dancing his speckled fly in the shallows,

Not understanding.

Perhaps this man cannot see the depths of other people and cares only for what he can get from them, dancing the lure of his charm, not realising that he does not understand, not seeing how he hurts them. He would always have smiled. That lesson he’d learnt well.

Judas must have had charm, but he could not understand the loving gift of Mary, anointing the feet of Jesus with precious ointment and wiping them with her hair – even though Jesus had raised her dead brother to life! (John 12) After the death of Jesus, Judas saw clearly his petty betrayals – like stealing from the common purse – as well as the one they led up to. He could not cope with this view of himself.

There is a tradition that when he ‘descended into Hell’, Jesus took the opportunity to save Judas, as expressed by this carving at Strasbourg cathedral, where the Lamb of God is untying him from the tree of suicide.

How to evangelise such a one?

MMB

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

April 2: The Apostles’ Dog and the Doors of Perception.

upperroom tomdog

We have seen most of this picture before: the disciples crowding around the risen Jesus with Thomas among them, touching him, supporting each other as they come to grips with this unlooked-for reality. The Church comes to birth in solidarity.

The right hand frame though shows how determinedly the disciples kept themselves safe: that massive door, fit for a castle keep, and their dog, faithfully guarding the threshold. His ears are pricked; he knows something is going on inside, but wears the resigned look of a puzzled dog who knows he does not understand, although he’s been among them on the road, eating the scraps that fell from their table (Matthew 15:26).

Just once open the door and watch him bound in, greeting his old friend without inhibition, without question, without needing to understand. He would know with every doggy sense; now, with the door shut, he knows that he does not know!

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

So, let us pray that we may open ourselves up, or better allow the risen Lord to come in through the chinks of our cavern, bringing with him eternity, infinity, joy; that we may rejoice, even if we do not understand.

Strasbourg Cathedral.

MMB.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

Wednesday 23 March: Sad and Squalid Sin

mercylogoJudas so clearly embodies the pitiful nature of sin. However much sin might try to large it up, the reality is always sad and squalid; a symptom of alienation, of being akosmios, ‘outside the cosmos’. It deserves of our compassion.

The greatest of the Greek philosophers understood this. The greatest of the Greek philosophers understood this. The root meaning of the Greek verb, harmatanō, which in biblical contexts means ‘to sin’, is ‘to miss the mark’, as when an archer misses a target.

For Plato, humans naturally desire the good, and so all wrongdoing is due to ignorance and as such an expression of deficiency. To commit evil is to wound and deform our soul, the most important part of us. It is always better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus teaches:

‘“Ought not this brigand, then, and this adulterer to be put to death?” you ask. Not at all, but you should ask rather, “Ought not this man to be put to death who is in a state of error and delusion about the greatest matters, and is in a state of blindness, not, indeed, in the vision which distinguishes between white and black, but in the judgement which distinguishes between the good and the evil?” And if you put it this way, you will realise how inhuman a sentiment it is you are uttering, and that it is just as if you should say, “Ought not this blind man, then, or this deaf man to be put to death?”’

MLT.

Illustrations from Strasbourg Cathedral: Judas the pitiful is shown: at supper; hanging on the tree; giving the treacherous kiss. The artist has shown Jesus restoring the servant’s ear in the garden even as he is arrested, but even more mercifully, the Lamb of God is undoing the scarf that Judas used to kill himself, ready to rescue him from Hell’s Mouth.

MMB.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Year of Mercy

22 March, Tuesday of Holy Week: The Hands of the Wicked.

 

 

mercylogoIn the first of today’s readings Isaiah (49:1-6) awakens to the realisation that, despite his doubts, his life has always rested secure in God’s plan. Although there are times when nothing makes sense and all seems futile, the reality is that God is all in all: the ground of all being; the beginning, middle and end of all that is. And so Psalm 70 reminds us to seek our refuge in the Lord and ask that he free us from the hand of the wicked.

Yet in the gospel (John 13:21-33,36-38) we find Jesus falling into the hands of the wicked. Or so it would seem. But again appearances deceive: the reality is that he does not fall into their hands, but rather submits to them, and in doing so overcomes wickedness. As Julian of Norwich saw (in the words of Denys Turner),

Love wages no wars at all, not even against sin, for love is absolute vulnerability. Love knows no other strategy than that vulnerability, [yet] it is precisely in that victory of sin over love that sin is defeated. In its victory over love, sin defeats itself. Sin’s failure to engage perfect love in a contest on sin’s terms of violence and power is sin’s defeat.

And so it is that what seems to be sin’s greatest victory is in fact its final defeat. On the Cross the Son of Man is glorified, and in him God is glorified. The Cross affirms that God is all in all.

MLT.

Strasbourg Cathedral: Jesus in the hands of the wicked; Our Lady Immaculate and the English Martyrs, the Triumph of the Cross. (MMB)

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Year of Mercy